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Author Topic: Is the U.S. military becoming a Counterinsurgency Only force?  (Read 1516 times)
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helot2000
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« on: May 07, 2008, 02:02:25 AM »

Here's a story you won't find anywhere else except at NPR.  It's worth the time to read the whole article.

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An internal Pentagon report is raising concerns about whether the Army's focus on counterinsurgency has weakened its ability to fight conventional battles. The report's authors — all colonels with significant combat experience — say the Army is "mortgaging its ability to (successfully) fight" in the future.

Col. Sean MacFarland was among the first to successfully apply counterinsurgency doctrine in Iraq in 2006. And yet he was a co-author of the recent internal Army report suggesting that the Army is far too focused on counterinsurgency training. This singular focus, he writes, is weakening the Army.  The report cites field artillery as an example of an area that has suffered from inattention. Since 1775, artillery units have served as the backbone of the U.S. Army. But today, a stunning 90 percent of these units are unqualified to fire artillery accurately — the lowest level in history.

"Due to five years in Iraq and six years in Afghanistan, I believe that the U.S. Army has become a counterinsurgency-only force," Gentile said recently during a public lecture in Washington. He also declined to comment for this story.  Gentile, who served two tours in Iraq, is perhaps the most outspoken internal critic of what he calls the Army's dangerous obsession with counterinsurgency.

Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, whose research helped transform the Army's organizational structure in the 1990s...disputes the idea that the Army's adoption of counterinsurgency has made it a better force.  He argues that this viewpoint encourages a more interventionist posture within the Army — a position that will make it easier for the Army to wage war in the future.  "I think it's downright dangerous because it suggests that we can repeat the folly of Iraq," Macgregor says. "That somehow or another, next time we can get it right without understanding that if the population is living within a social structure that doesn't want to change, if the population doesn't want you in the country, if there is no legitimate government to begin with, your intervention is doomed to inevitable failure."

« Last Edit: May 08, 2008, 12:38:11 AM by helot2000 » Logged

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CSL
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2008, 05:56:27 AM »

I think its unavoidable that the American military is going to become increasingly a counterinsurgency force tasked mainly with operating in environments like Iraq, Afghanistan, or areas that would resemble these areas - like Somalia. With the collapse of the Soviet Union almost twenty years ago the whole reasoning behind maintaining a large army capable of sustaining a conventional war in a place like Europe has clearly been gone for more than a decade.

Right now I see only three potential future ways in which the American military will be needed in the next two or three decades...

1) War with North Korea. Perhaps the conflict that will most likely resemble a conventional war fought with a delineated front line, but generally speaking the idea that this would remain conventional is increasingly improbable - it would probably go nuclear meaning a large conventional army wouldn't essentially be needed as the South Koreans woudl do most of the fighting on the ground.

2) War with China over Taiwan. I find the idea of this actually happening rather laughable, but its still possible. Again most fighting would be done by Taiwanese and not American ground forces with American naval and air support being huge factors.

3) Continued counterinsurgency work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most likely, especially in Afghanistan where I don't think anything will be decided in the near future - NATO has really, really placed its emphasis in Afghanistan and we'll see forces there for over a decade most likely. With this and the continued emphasis on there and Iraq (which I don't think will be gotten out of for a few more years) the continued emphasis is going to be on counterinsurgency work and the longer we stay in either the more advancing career officers will take counterinsurgency lessons to heart with those growing up with the threat of conventional war and the Soviet Union retiring at an increasing pace. Also folded into this is the notion of any emphasis on joining UN or other NATO peacekeeping, peacemaking, or peace-enforcement missions. Any reading of this missions post-Cold War will rather rapidly show you that these are generally looking more like Afghanistan or Iraq where forces of ours get involved in intense tribal, racial, or ethnic battles where we will take sides and have to enforce peace on means that will resemble todays counterinsurgency warfare.

With regards to the article i'm rather suspect about the allegation that 90% of artillery units can't fire their weapons accurately - that frankly sounds like bullshit considering that in a force trained for counterinsurgency warfare the accuracy and prompt arrival of artillery is absolutely crucial as it relates to keeping civilian casualties down and taking targets out quickly before they can remove themselves. Moreover we must assume that much of the previous slack taken up by artillery has been transferred to air units which can offer more accurate weapon fire than artillery (though this should change back soon). Maybe he is referring to artillery being inaccurate as compared to air-based weapons which is rather suspect when you are talking about a conventional war where wisdom would assume that you could shower targets much more liberally than in dense urban counterinsurgency conflicts.

With that Macgregor fellow i'd respond that the problem wasn't with the military - but its political masters which caused the problems. The issue here isn't that transforming the military towards one more focused towards counterinsurgency will lead to more counterinsurgency work, but that political forces have almost assured that more of these missions will be waged. He's also rather amusingly assuming that future counterinsurgency work will be made in areas where we actively aren't wanted there by almost all forces in the region like in Iraq. I'd rather counter with the idea that our future conflicts as a whole will more generally trend towards the Afghanistan model where American forces work increasingly with the United Nations (unlikely) or NATO (most likely) in regions where help is actively wanted by the majority of the civilian population and the mission is sanctioned by NATO or UN standards.

As to the assumption that the war in Iraq is not being won despite the introduction of these counterinsurgency methods - it's clear that on the whole the war was lost very early on when the Bush administration bungled the entire thing.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2008, 06:00:42 AM by CSL » Logged
helot2000
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2008, 12:59:23 AM »

Quote from: CSL on May 07, 2008, 05:56:27 AM

Right now I see only three potential future ways in which the American military will be needed in the next two or three decades...
What, no Iran?   slywink

Quote from: CSL on May 07, 2008, 05:56:27 AM

With regards to the article i'm rather suspect about the allegation that 90% of artillery units can't fire their weapons accurately - that frankly sounds like bullshit.
That is my fault.  I screwed up the cut/paste job on the URL.  If you read the White Paper written by the four officers, the problem is pretty clear.  Artillery personnel are being sucked up to do all sorts of non artillery jobs in Iraq (camp guard, transportation and filler positions).  The authors state that 90% of fire support personnel serve outside of their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).  What I get from the White Paper (pdf. linked at NRP) is that the artillery arm has been cannibalized. 

While your points on the unlikelihood of the US being in HIC (high intensity conflict) in the near future, the authors point out that the failure of Israel in South Lebanon against Hezbollah was purportedly due to their COIN (Counter-Insurgency) emphasis in the occupied territories and their atrophied ability to conduct combined arms operations.  Likewise, they suspect we would suffer the same fate if we launched into high intensity conflict in the near future.  Perhaps its all a moot point.  With the US bogged in Afghanistan and Iraq for years to come, its not like we have an ability to fight another war.

Quote from: CSL on May 07, 2008, 05:56:27 AM

As to the assumption that the war in Iraq is not being won despite the introduction of these counterinsurgency methods - it's clear that on the whole the war was lost very early on when the Bush administration bungled the entire thing.
Clear to you...not so much to Bush, his administration and Petraeus. 

 
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Eduardo X
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008, 05:18:48 AM »

I haven't looked too deeply into the conflict in Lebannon, but from what I can tell, Israel kept pumping soldiers into a meat-grinder once Hezbollah had set up some pretty solid defenses. Israel assumed Hezbollah would crack easily and when they didn't, had no plans to fight a head-to-head conflict.
Hezbollah says they "won," but they got pretty badly bloodied. It was a lot like Egypt in '73: a loss, but an impressive show of force that shocked Israel.
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Trappin
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2008, 07:27:47 AM »

Writing reports and analysis is what these pentagon people /military officers do - its their bloody job. That may sound obvious but the amount of paper these guys churn out is simply astounding.. and most of these reports end up in a file cabinet on the 40th basement floor of warehouse 1234/a. But - and I'm not trying to minimize this specific report - But the news media cherry picks reports like these from thousands of more mundane reports. A more compelling story would be the discovery of a paper written by Petraeus outlining the opposite type of military strategy/tactics of what he has done to date in Iraq.


Cannibalized artillery - How long would it take to reform artillery units and get them ready for set piece WW2 style line work? The Army has been training for it since 1775... so I'd wager not long.

Overstating success [COIN] - The Army remained in its static WW2 styled battle formations for most of the Vietnam war and where did it get us? Quagmire? Iraq may be a hornets nest but it ain't no Vietnam.


We've done all we can do in Iraq and its now up to the people of that country to grab the brass ring - and they better grab fast and with both hands because "change" means one thing.. You got two years and then its Adios Amigos
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CSL
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2008, 11:58:15 AM »

Quote from: helot2000 on May 08, 2008, 12:59:23 AM

The authors state that 90% of fire support personnel serve outside of their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).  What I get from the White Paper (pdf. linked at NRP) is that the artillery arm has been cannibalized.

Which certainly isn't the fault of going towards a counterinsurgency force - it's more the fault of a military force doing a job with not nearly enough forces by way of stupid political planning. Taking troops out of artillery to bolster other arms seems like the best thing to do really since in this frequently low-intensity warfare it isn't as needed.
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helot2000
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2008, 07:46:01 PM »

Quote from: CSL on May 08, 2008, 11:58:15 AM

Which certainly isn't the fault of going towards a counterinsurgency force - it's more the fault of a military force doing a job with not nearly enough forces by way of stupid political planning. Taking troops out of artillery to bolster other arms seems like the best thing to do really since in this frequently low-intensity warfare it isn't as needed.

The artillery arm isn't the only one to feel the pinch. The Air Force and Navy have had to provide similar support in Iraq with thousands serving outside their specialty.  This is from 2007 but it remains true even today. 

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The Pentagon, scrambling to maintain 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, has ordered growing numbers of Air Force and Navy personnel into combat-related assignments with front-line Army and Marine Corps units.  The decision to send thousands of airmen and sailors into nontraditional assignments such as convoy duty reflects growing personnel shortages as the armed forces try to sustain the highest troop levels of the war.

The Air Force has steadily increased the number of personnel in Iraq in place of soldiers or Marines -- from 1,905 in 2004 to about 5,000 this year and 6,000 next year. The Navy is sending roughly 2,200 of what the service calls "individual augmentees" this year to handle combat-related duties with Army and Marine units. "The good news and bad news about this is that we are out doing things that our people weren't originally trained for," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley in a speech.

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We've done all we can do in Iraq and its now up to the people of that country to grab the brass ring - and they better grab fast and with both hands because "change" means one thing.. You got two years and then its Adios Amigos
+1.

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Teggy
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2008, 08:13:39 PM »

How much do we still rely on artillery?  We have a lot more ability to use offshore missles and guns and air support now.  It's probably a lot cheaper, though.
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CSL
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2008, 11:03:17 PM »

Quote from: helot2000 on May 08, 2008, 07:46:01 PM

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The Pentagon, scrambling to maintain 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, has ordered growing numbers of Air Force and Navy personnel into combat-related assignments with front-line Army and Marine Corps units.  The decision to send thousands of airmen and sailors into nontraditional assignments such as convoy duty reflects growing personnel shortages as the armed forces try to sustain the highest troop levels of the war.

The Air Force has steadily increased the number of personnel in Iraq in place of soldiers or Marines -- from 1,905 in 2004 to about 5,000 this year and 6,000 next year. The Navy is sending roughly 2,200 of what the service calls "individual augmentees" this year to handle combat-related duties with Army and Marine units. "The good news and bad news about this is that we are out doing things that our people weren't originally trained for," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley in a speech.

Quote from: Trappin
We've done all we can do in Iraq and its now up to the people of that country to grab the brass ring - and they better grab fast and with both hands because "change" means one thing.. You got two years and then its Adios Amigos
+1.



And again, this is not the result of shifting to a counterinsurgency force - but engaging in a vast counterinsurgency war without a suitable field force.
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helot2000
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2008, 02:54:53 AM »

Quote from: CSL on May 08, 2008, 11:03:17 PM

And again, this is not the result of shifting to a counterinsurgency force - but engaging in a vast counterinsurgency war without a suitable field force.
Just to clarify, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling (and I for that matter) agree with you.  He called it like he saw it in an Armed Forces Journal article titled "A failure in generalship."

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The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq’s population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America’s generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as “Fiasco” and “Cobra II.” However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

As for the future of the US military and how that force should be structured, there is an excellent story today in the Washington Independent titled "The Rise of the Counterinsurgents."
Quote
My field artillery battalion, we've got a multi-launch rocket system to guard detainees. We built the wrong Army in the 1990s and now we're breaking it apart to fight the war we've got." He continued, "The notion that America's power as a nation is somehow at its limits today as we spend four percent of our GDP on defense and have an active-duty Army of half a million just doesn't square with history."

The good news is that we have soldiers like Yingling who are willing to call out the same individuals who might block their future promotions.  There is little we can do about all of our mistakes in the past.  The question is how do we avoid those mistakes in the future and it's reassuring to see this debate within the military.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2008, 03:01:44 AM by helot2000 » Logged

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Trappin
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2008, 03:44:55 AM »

That was a good read. Theres far to much information to absorb .. I sometimes feel like I'm drowning in it Roll Eyes

Military men have been arguing over this sort of thing forever - Prussian military caste vs. the steel arms of Krupp or trench warfare vs tanks.

They all seem like bright men and I hope they work out a good solution.
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